How The Climate Affects Wine
Climate change can be observed in every single part of this world. With radical changes in weather patterns, we’ve had to work hard to conserve energy and to create self-sustainable options.
This is seen in everything from how we eat to how we harvest crops. Furthermore, climate plays a huge role in the particular vintage that you consume.
Weather Versus Climate
For instance, the wine produced in the Bordeaux region may be classified as a warm or cold vintage. You may not hear this often, but atmospheric conditions do in fact affect the wine and how it might taste.
Before we dig in, let’s first talk about the difference between climate and weather.
“Climate” refers to the general conditions of a specific region over a long period of time, and “weather” indicates the temporary conditions that may be unusual at times. If you look at the wine regions of Germany, you’ll see a generally cool climate with patches of warm weather over the course of a few weeks.
While most regions in Europe enjoy cooler climates, there are instances where the cooler wine regions are considered “old world” and warmer places as “new world.” However, we must understand that there are exceptional climates and weather patterns all over the world, so it’s best to dismiss those associations.
The ripening of grapes in cooler conditions takes time and doesn’t happen as easily as it would in warmer conditions. Grapes that aren’t as ripe will contain high levels of acidity that adds a tartness to the wine. It's all a matter of preference in this case. Some might find these varietals to be sour and harsh in taste, while others experience the flavors as refreshing.
Grapes that grow in cooler climates will contain lower levels of sugar which makes them drier and lower in alcohol content. A light, crisp and dry vino comes from grapes that have had less exposure to sunlight (regardless of temperature). Moreover, rainy conditions might leave the grape with excessive moisture. This produces a varietal with a slightly diluted taste.
Grapes ripen with ease in warmer weather patterns. Warmer atmomspehic conditions will give vino less acidity, higher sugar levels, and a darker tint. With higher levels of sugar, you’ll have increased levels of alcohol content. This makes for a robust, full-bodied varietal.
It’s vital to remember that higher sugar levels in grapes won’t necessarily mean the wine will taste sweet. The fermentation process will determine its dryness, but you can always expect higher alcohol content. Grapes that grow in warmer conditions will have a softness to them that’s rounded off with a fullness in body and a fruity palette.
Cool Climate Wine Regions
Since the temperatures drop so drastically in these regions, the harvests will produce a wine that tastes different.
Expect tart flavors and more acidity in vino that come from regions with cooler conditions.
- Northern France
- Oregon, USA
- Washington State, USA
- New York, USA
- New Zealand
- Northern Italy
- South Africa
Warm Climate Wine Regions
Regions that enjoy warmer conditions will usually have more consistent temperatures in their season.
This will make it easier for grapes to become ripe between summer and fall. Naturally, varietals from these regions are richer in fruity flavors and contain less acidity.
- Southern Italy
- Greek Islands
- Central & Southern Spain
- Central & Southern Portugal
- Most of South Africa
- Southern France
There are many factors that determine the taste and aroma of a particular vino. Long before the fermentation process even begins, the grape’s ripeness will depend on the atmospheric conditions that it's grown in.
Understanding the region’s weather patterns will help you determine what the varietal might taste like. However, remember that climate isn’t the only thing that affects the winemaking process.
It’s important to remember that aging also plays a huge role in how a varietal tastes. If a cool vintage can produce an acidic and tart taste, then you can still come across something that tastes incredibly ripe.
If you tend to enjoy vino from cooler regions, you’ll need to take the specific vintage under consideration to help determine its taste.
To help establish your regional taste preferences, do a comparison of sorts with a wine from both warm and cool regions (and of similar vintage).